Rose Pleskow attacks life with the utmost drive and purpose. In 2011 at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece, Pleskow won the bronze medal in the 1500-meter race in athletics. But when Pleskow is not swimming in the Potomac River alongside her mom or running on the track, she can be found within the walls of Brightspot—a software development company just outside the nation’s capital in Reston, Virginia.
“The opportunity came through a program I did with my high school and when I was in the middle of the internship a paid job became available,” the South Lakes High School graduate says about her position at Brightspot, which she has held for 11 years.
The longtime Special Olympics Virginia athlete feels at home working for Brightspot. For years, the software development company has been partners with Special Olympics. Over the years, they have developed several websites, including two significant redesigns of the Special Olympics website, and have been the lead creator of templates for all 220 Programs around the globe.
“It means so much because they are very supportive of the disability community and they also have a very special partnership with Special Olympics,” Pleskow says. “My company wants to be a part of the Special Olympics community and I’m very thankful for my coworkers and my manager who’s very supportive.”
Parker Ramsdell, Brightspot's Senior Vice President of People, Mission and Culture, has worked with Pleskow for over a decade. “I’ve always joked that Rose is my boss because she keeps me in line and keeps me at the right place at the right time,” Ramsdell says. He talks with a lot of pride about where Pleskow’s desk is located and how that was done on purpose. “It’s at the busiest part of the office,” Ramsdell says about her desk. “She brightens everyone’s day, it’s such a joy to see Rose in the workplace. She always brings great energy, a great smile, kindness, and compassion for her colleagues.”
When Pleskow is on the clock she begins her day with her coffee in the office. It is a simple but important task that gets her day started. Glancing at her calendar, she will create a plan to prioritize the tasks from most important to least important. It ensures that she makes the most out of her hours of work. Her tasks can be in depth, such as when she’s assisting Brightspot with the web design for Special Olympics USA's website. Pleskow also stays on top of the website to make sure things are running smoothly. If something is wrong, she’ll write up a ticket and send it to the developer to solve the issue. “I do content publishing which is when I get information, I publish pictures and information before it goes live,” Pleskow says.
In addition to her web development responsibilities, Pleskow regularly conducts interviews with her colleagues. On the Record with Rose highlights the people who make up the team at Brightspot. A Q&A style interview, Pleskow gets to know each person, asking things like how long they have been with the company and what brought them to the position they hold.
Every March, Pleskow leads Brightspot's activation for the Spread the Word campaign, a global initiative working to spread inclusion for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Prior to the day, she will send an email out to her coworkers and share a story around the “R” word. She then encourages everyone to sign the banner.
“It’s really important to me because I have a disability and I want my coworkers to include people outside the work environment and inside the work environment,” Pleskow says. She really wants her colleagues to act in the community if they see someone not being inclusive, so that is why she encourages them to take the pledge.
Pleskow knows how important it is for Special Olympics athletes to have meaningful employment. She is lucky enough to be at a company that values its employees and enhances the partnership it has with the intellectual disability community. And she wants others to have the same opportunity. She says to other athletes, “Always be on time, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always try your best.”
“I hope it sends a powerful message,” Ramsdell says about the impact they’re making. “When I look at any project I put Rose on, I always know how good the quality is going to be.” He mentions how it demonstrates and showcases the power of Pleskow’s employment.
For years, Pleskow has led by example on the track and in the pool. The leadership skills she learned on the field of play have followed her to the workplace where she strives for perfection daily, demonstrating the incredible capacity and ability of people with intellectual disabilities.